Chronicling the development of my Cambrian and Narrow Gauge 4mm scale model railway

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Wheely good

One of the keys to my mountain railway section looking the part is the use of HOn3 track which is 10.5mm gauge which equates to 1’7.5″ gauge in really life which is what narrow gauge rack railways usually are. 

HOn3 isn’t all that common in the UK and coupled with me being a skinflint I have set about tackling the rolling stock in the most cost effective way possible. 

Ad part of their expanding range of 009 products, Peco now produce ready to assemble bogies in “passenger” style and arch bar style. I decided that my carriage will be slightly industrial and run on arch bar bogies so I procured a set of them and then a set of HOn3 wheels. 

Despite there being only 1.5mm between the two gauges, the treads of HOn3 wheels tend to be larger than 009. Thus the wheels wouldn’t fit in the bogies. However with judicious use of a file to file the inside faces of the moulded plastic bogies, and a 1mm drill to deepen the axle boxes, the bogies can be made to accommodate the HOn3 wheels. 

With this hurdle out of the way I can move on to other things. Track, loco, build the carriage,….


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The family and I are on holiday this week so no modelling to talk of. We did manage to get a trip in to the Welshpool and Llanfair railway though which I was glad of as Countess was the first NG loco I ever fell in love with back when I was a small spotty teenager so it was nice to have a ride behind The Earl. 

On a walk yesterday I came across a few buildings which I took photos of for reference. I love a good delapifated building. The colours, textures, and shapes are just all so much more interesting than a building with straight lines. 

First this wonderful barn being used to store wood. Note the discoloured wood and the sagging gate all adding to the atmosphere. (Also note the guest appearance of Hils, guard dog and all round softy belonging to the Matriarch and Patriarch)

Secondly this wood and wrinkly tin shed:

Finally, this fantastic building covered in moss and with the tree behind resting on it. No apologies for taking so many photos of it; I just love the atmosphere oozing from it. Maybe I’ll get one or more of these buildings into my model somewhere or other. 

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Well as predicted, instead of concentrating on one thing I concentrated on two, or maybe three. 

I had an idea to make Abt rack track with guides as per Snowdon using “metal siding” from Evergreen plastics cut into strips, glued offset, and then use C channel to form the guides. 

I did  a trial which looked good…

…apart from being way too wide. 

And even using a jig to cut the metal siding sheet I couldn’t get the strips the right thickness – either too thick or inconsistently thin. 

This has meant a rejig in the history of the mountain railway which now dates from the late 1880s and uses a variation on the Riggenbach rack (single rack with guides) which I will be able to produce in consistent lengths. 

(L-R) Riggenbach, Strüb, Abt, Locher

Riggenbach rack

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Yup you heard that right. T’missus said I should be careful about saying I’m stripping my model. But there we were, I was. 

The model in question was the Ertl Culdee which is the base for my mountain engine. 

Scale wise it is about right. It just is a shiny purple and has a face and an ‘orrible plastic chassis. 

Following reading internet discussions on the best strippers out there, as it were, and the poor performance of “modern” nitromors I tried brake fluid (because it’s cheap and I’m a Yorkshireman) which took the shiny laquer off a treat but struggled with the paint. I then used polycell stripper which is effectively half the price of nitromors and it went through the paint like nobody’s business. 

What is underneath is a well modelled casting, definitely suitable for the job in hand, although the boiler isn’t anywhere near as steeply inclined as in real life, and in fact looks level by some trick in the photo below, but with a few added parts I think something can be made of the job. And I have a plan for the chassis too. 

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Ever upwards…

So job done. I finished off the walls and added capping stones, discarding Metcalfe’s two height capping stones and going for a single cap. Might look ok on a double track viaduct as the kit is designed for but they just looked frankly ridiculous on a Welsh narrow gauge line. (Of course I only discovered this after I’d assembled a full set of capping stones ready to stick on.)

Overall though I’m pleased with the result. 

I will say though, I’m ready to do something else! 

I am pleased I managed to get the “going past the rooftops” look. 

Next to choose between track, rolling stock, or locomotive. 

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End game

I hope…

I’now on the home straight with any luck. I’m fixing the upright pillars along the length and fixing the back wall on. Then the capping stones will go on and with that we can probably call it done and then I will post a picture of it in all its glory. I know I’ve not shown a full picture yet but I didn’t want to give the game away too early. 

Also on the go are the plans for the loco and stock and the track which will appear in a later post. 

And I tell thee summat for nowt, if you’ve ever built a Metcalfe kit you’ll know they produce a lot of card cut-offs; well that’s nowt compared with how much you get when you modify a kit – my modelling room is strewn with the stuff at the minute. 

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Walls end

The viaduct now had the walls inside the pillars glued to the face of the wood. This was done and clamped overnight to ensure good rigidity of the structure. 

With the viaduct really taking shape I needed to find a way to cover all the joins, more at the wall’s bottom than end. For this I’m using the pillar covers that come with the kit and then making up arch buttresses from spare card. To make these I knocked up a template so I could measure and mess about to get a good fit and then knock off each of the real ones. 

These were then glued in place and clamped and left to dry before fitting the vertical sections.